This essay will look at the key aspects of early Years child development in the contexts of providing support in an appropriate child care setting. The early years of a child’s life are the most important in terms of their general well-being, their emotional and social development, and their physical, intellectual and emotional growth. Bruce and Meggitt, (1999) claim that children learn more in the first five years than in the whole of their lives, thus supporting the importance of good quality early intervention in a child’s learning and development. As children grow and develop in a myriad of ways there are several theories of child development, each suggesting that children develop in a similar way, yet each also stresses that different parts of development are of primary importance. Maslow (1970) cited in Hartley-Brewer (1998) believes that children cannot learn and develop until their basic needs are met such as food, warmth and security. When these are met then a child must feel safe and secure before they can learn which according to Maslow (1970) is high up the ladder of needs before they reach the top which is self-actualisation. Geraghty (1988) suggests “love, security, consistency and continuous affection, and opportunities for independence lead to a positive self-image” (p.104) As a Sure Start practitioner I agree with Bruner (1993) who states that “parents are a child’s first educator” (p.206) and I will often discuss with the parents the development of their child. This often occurs in unpredictable stages and is a process of change in which the child learns to master increasingly complex levels of moving, thinking, feelings and relationships with others. Although each child will progress at a different pace, it is nevertheless possible to group children into six age bands that mark different stages of psycho-social development: under one, 1-2; 3-4; 5-9; 10-14; and 15 and over. The unequal spans demonstrate the unevenness of children’s development, which progresses particularly rapidly in all dimensions in the early years.
Within the Sure start setting children are constantly encouraged to interact and learn from parents, peers and teachers in the group. This encourages the children to bring experiences from home, to be aware of others needs and to learn what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviours. Vygotsky (1896-1935) coined the term of ‘zone of potential development’ or as it is sometimes referred to as ‘proximal development’. This generally means that an adult or peer can give their support and guidance to a child up to a point where the guidance is no longer required. This is then called the ‘zone of actual development’. Bruner (19780 saw the adults role in child’s development through play as crucial. Bruner (1978) believes that the child learns through ‘scaffolding’. The adult must understand that the child already knows before they can move on. Early years providers need to continuously re-examine the way they construe child development and learning (Aubery, Bottle & Godfrey, 2003) My role within the Sure start project is to provide an opportunity to encourage and develop children’s emotional, physical, social and their cognitive development. As early years practitioner I feel I need to be able to meet the needs of our children through continually accessing all the areas of development. On a daily basis I plan and resource challenging learning environments and support children’s learning through planned play activities. I also need to be able to extend and support the spontaneous play of children and help develop their language and communication skills through play. As practitioner I feel I need to ensure the...